Bernard Schoenburg: Gloves are off in race between Gill, Davis
The hot race for the U.S. House in the 13th Congressional District is getting a little higher profile, as an outside group has started running cable-TV commercials attacking Democrat DAVID GILL, and Gill’s campaign has produced a video criticizing Republican RODNEY DAVIS.
The anti-Gill ad is being funded by the New Prosperity Foundation, which doesn’t coordinate directly with campaigns. Its chairman is RON GIDWITZ of Chicago, who was a GOP candidate for governor in the 2006 primary. Volunteer treasurer of the group is GREG BAISE, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. Baise said New Prosperity will provide commercials, direct mail and volunteer help for the “pro-business candidates” in six congressional districts, including the 13th.
The anti-Gill ad shows dominoes falling, and an announcer says that “Choosing David Gill is a vote for NANCY PELOSI and her plans for a bigger, more powerful federal government” under which “you can count on higher taxes and more federal authority over your health care. …”
Gill doesn’t like insurance company involvement in the new federal health-care law, and favors a single-payer national plan.
Other candidates being helped by New Prosperity include U.S. Reps. ROBERT DOLD in the new 10th District; JOE WALSH in the 8th; JUDY BIGGERT in the 11th; and BOBBY SCHILLING in the 17th. Also included is GOP candidate JASON PLUMMER in the new 12th.
Gill, who was in Springfield Friday to meet officials of some critical access hospitals that he said would be “grievously hurt” by GOP budget proposals, questioned the validity of linking him with Pelosi, the Californian who leads U.S. House Democrats.
“I was not this party’s choice in the primary,” he said. Greene County State’s Attorney MATT GOETTEN was endorsed by U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill., in that primary, but now Durbin backs Gill and Gill is being promoted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Gill said he was picked by primary voters, while Davis was chosen by Republican Party leaders after U.S. Rep. TIM JOHNSON, R-Urbana, dropped out of the race after the primary.
Asked if he would vote for Pelosi as the Democratic leader in the House, Gill said, “It depends who’s running.”
The Gill campaign’s video, available on the Web and in a fundraising email sent Friday — but not yet converted to a TV ad — was produced by Compass Media in Chicago. It refers to what it calls a “money-laundering scheme” in which a billionaire couple in Chicago, KEN and ANNE DIAS GRIFFIN, combined to donate more than $200,000 to a variety of Republican groups, including the Logan County GOP. Those groups then combined to donate more than $120,000 to the state GOP, which had a $5,000-a-ticket fundraiser featuring KARL ROVE. Davis, former acting executive director of the state party, has said he introduced Anne Dias Griffin to downstate chairmen, but said the Griffin donations were “absolutely not” linked to the Rove event.
The Gill team mischaracterized one player in this controversy. The video refers to “a lawyer for the Republican Party” who called the Davis/Griffin connection “a quite possibly illegal contribution funneling scheme.” Individuals can give parties only $10,000 per election.
Although the lawyer goes unnamed in the video, he is DOUG IBENDAHL of Chicago — but it’s been about a decade since Ibendahl was a lawyer for the state party. He remains a Republican, but one who is a harsh critic of the current leadership of the state GOP. Asked if he agrees the wording on the video is wrong, Gill said, “I want to explore that further.”
Also in the running in the 13th is independent JOHN HARTMAN of Edwardsville.
Sensitive about Reagan
State Treasurer DAN RUTHERFORD took an odd step last week when he issued a news release defending RONALD REAGAN from Cook County Board President TONI PRECKWINKLE.
While in Champaign for a conference, Preckwinkle said that Reagan deserves “a special place in hell” for his role in the war on drugs.
Preckwinkle, a Democrat who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor, said hours later she regretted what she called the “inflammatory” remark, the Chicago Tribune reported. But she told the newspaper that Reagan was one of the prominent politicians who put early emphasis on drugs as a criminal problem instead of a health problem. That, she said, resulted in a disproportionate number of black and Latino young people going to prison.
In an official news release issued two days after Preckwinkle’s comment, Rutherford — who sure acts like he wants to run for governor — noted that he was Illinois director for Reagan’s campaign in 1980. He said Preckwinkle’s comment was “exactly the type of heated rhetoric” that has “brought even greater divide to government today.
“Ronald Reagan is perhaps the greatest American president in modern history,” Rutherford said. “I knew the man. He was a gentleman of character and integrity — attributes that were learned during his formative years growing up here in Illinois.”
Rutherford also released audio of himself criticizing Preckwinkle’s remark.
I have no problem with Rutherford saying this, and it certainly isn’t out of bounds for a Republican politician to bask in the glow of the Great Communicator. But that’s the kind of thing better said through a campaign or via social media. It’s a stretch to see any direct relevance to his job as state treasurer.
Rutherford’s state-paid press secretary, CATIE SHEEHAN GIBSON, who happens to be the Republican candidate for the Sangamon County Board in District 28, is listed as the contact on the news release.
Rutherford told me later that Preckwinkle is a government official who was talking about a government program.
“If it’s got anything to do with state money, state finances, as the treasurer, I have the standing to weigh in on it,” he said.
Last summer, when she was at the state fair, I asked Preckwinkle about her belief that possession of small amounts of marijuana should be decriminalized. She said then that it costs more than $140 a day to keep somebody in jail, and most arrestees spend five to 21 days in jail before going to court, even though nine of 10 cases involving possession of 10 grams or less of the drug are dismissed.
“It’s disproportionately impacting black and brown young people, and that’s reflected in our jail population,” she said. “It’s devastating to those young people who end up with convictions, and it has a very negative impact in terms of how we’re using our public resources.”
Rutherford’s view of decriminalization?
“I’m not ready to weigh in on that,” he said.
It’s great to hear that state Sen. JOHN SULLIVAN, D-Rushville, is on the mend.
His campaign issued a statement Thursday saying that doctors at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore were able to completely remove a liposarcoma, a slow-growing cancer comprised mostly of fat cells.
The statement said doctors are not recommending any radiation or chemotherapy at this time. His wife, JOAN, reported that he is doing well and is eager to get back on his feet.
Sullivan, 53, is being challenged in the November election in the new 47th Senate District by Republican Adams County Circuit Clerk RANDY FRESE of Paloma.
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or follow him via twitter.com/bschoenburg. His email address is